Thursday, April 28, 2016

Reuniting

     So, my wife and I concluded our vacation by driving to meet my sister and her family, to pick up our kids. The vacations had been good for all of us, restorative to degrees none of had realized we needed. As a result we reunited from a place of much more abundant emotional reserve than with which we had parted. It doesn't do at all to say that we met back up far happier than with what we had parted, but that is about the gist of what I am saying.

     My son, having just woken from a nap -- which itself is indicative of the level of activity at which he had operated prior to seeing us -- showed himself to be rather emotional, and his responses to many comments or situations were ... well, they were emotional. He cried at slight accidents, visibly displayed withdrawing at minor confusions, and so on.

      In the moment I understood not just the discombobulation from having just awoken from an afternoon nap -- I know that very well -- but, also, I know the largeness of the emotions surrounding the reunion, and myself would have had a hard time putting it all into words (even as a 42 year old writer). My joy at reuniting with my son and daughter overshadowed all, and also fueled my desire to be understanding of his needs in the moment. Indeed, beyond even my desire to just enjoy the reuniting I wanted for him to be released into the joy, his joy, my joy. Furthermore, it was somewhat touching that his emotions were seemingly too big for him in that moment, as I know he did feel profoundly joyful.

    Several times over the hours spent driving home I actively sought to understand (and to be compassionate, sympathetic to) his inability to handle the largeness of emotions for which I know myself even challenged to handle. In those moments (as in every moment) it was his heart and his ability (cognitive, emotional, psychological abilities) which defined his behavior for me (rather than letting his behavior determine the context), and it was my joy that motivated me to be encouraging of him. I wanted to bring him into my joy, to see him aided through his feelings more than even wanting it to be some "hallmark" moment I experienced. Put slightly differently, I wanted for him to be brought through to joy more than I wanted some fluffy experience of a warm, fuzzy moment. I trusted, too, in his heart for me and didn't need the experience to affirm some need.

     In this selfless joy and compassionate desire to bring another into that joy, and the attendant lack of concern over behavior, along with the active effort to bring forth to that joyous place do I see the father-heart of God.

   

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Vacations


     Since last Wednesday my family has been on vacation, though not all of us on vacation to the same spot. My wife and I went to our favorite vacation spot for just her and I, while my children went to stay with my sister. It was the first time for my children to get to stay with my sister, brother-in-law, and teenage nephew. They saw a movie together, went bowling, practiced archery, cooked, checked the chicken coup for eggs, did arts and crafts, told stories, rough-housed, rode four-wheelers, got frozen yogurt, laughed frequently. And those were just the activities about which my sister sent pictures and updates. 



     Despite the goodness and blessing that being with my children is to me, I needed rest. There wasn't a single activity my sister did with them that I would myself not have wanted to do with them (if I had ever thought to do such). End of the day, I was needing rest, and she was wanting to love upon them. I knew my sister would love on them, would love them well, though I did not know all that she would end up doing with them. I entrusted my children to my sister, and my trust in her (and in my brother-in-law and nephew) was proven rightly placed beyond even what I could have imagined (not that it was in question).

     I wanted for my children to be well cared for, to be blessed and to grow in a relationship with my sister and her family. I saw it was good, as well, for my children that I be rested and recharged, as good as I could be. I wanted that there would be nothing to detract from my being able to be all that I could be for them. In that moment of the vacation my sister was for them all I could have hoped to have been for them, and what I hoped my rest would restore in me to be. 

     Perhaps most saliently, however, is that I wanted for my children to find a rest within my rest. I wanted for them to be able to find a guarantee of their needs coming to be met directly as a result of my resting from my own labor, that my rest benefits them and that they can trust as a result.

     I think in this desire to be all that I can be, and specifically even in the very non-selfish desire to be rested for their good, and in the desire for a similar type of rest for my children, one can easily see the father-heart of God.



     From this understanding God's desire for us to be able to be assured and to believe in His rest (and completed work on the cross), there is a verse today which I am reading, mulling over: Ephesians 3:16-21 (specifically verse 18, "together with all the saints..." )


"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Team Volleys

     This past Saturday my daughter had another volleyball game. Prior to this game I have been excited for her to play, and contentedly happy she was having fun, and having a "good experience" learning a sport. This game, however, was different for me,

     My daughter has been showing a side to herself which, remarkably to me, is a side I can come close to connecting with, as it is so very much like me. My daughter has been showing a desire to really get good, to learn the skills well. My daughter applies herself to the task of learning the skills, and in this I see a sort of  "je ne se quoi" ... humility, an earnestness. Simply put, she desires to compete, to perform, and to perform well. I have many years of brokeness and bentness and issues getting in the way of my desires to perform, and so she shows me what this drive looks like in a purer form, and connection ends a little inside the doorway, so to speak (never getting fully to the table with her).

    Because she has been applying herself to improve, and working towards that end, even growing in confidence, I really wanted to see her have the opportunity to play, to get to excel and play at a level she has been working towards. And while this is little different, in some ways, than what I always want for her, I was also wanting that her team play as much to their potential as possible, merely for the sake of my daughter being enabled to play as well as she could. If the team is playing well, each member is allowed to play at their highest level. Unfortunately, each member playing at their best alone doesn't necessarily make a great team, and in this nuance my desires for my daughter come into focus: I wanted for the team to function well as a team, while simultaneously wanting for my daughter to get to play a good game.

    The team we went up against I knew well -- I know their coaches, and several of their players from the past season. I knew this coach would "bring the rain," or, "bring the pain," so to speak: he would not let up, nor let his rather skilled and talented team let up. Here is the rub, though, which is most telling: I actually believed in my daughter and her team. I believed that if they played at the level I knew capable, they could succeed, but I believed not so much contingently but expectantly. I didn't say, "if they play well," but elected to believe they would. I trusted, in effect, in them. Likewise, there is a trust in their ability to grow and excel over time, especially in my daughter's ability.

     It is no question that in this is seen a similar heart to the fatherly-heart of God: He trusts in us, wanting merely for the victory to play itself out. And God has taken every step to enable the possibility for this to occur, at least at the given level and to the given end He desires in the moment. I don't expect my daughter (or, by extension, her team) to play collegiate level players, but a really good 3rd/4th grade team, sure. It is said in the numerous books and epistles of scripture that "God is Love," and "Love" is said to always trust, always hope. Nor is it a fatherly-heart focused solely on the individual, but upon the community -- He hopes and trusts for the community, according to His enabling of the community.

     My daughter's team wasn't just beaten, they were trounced, and I couldn't have been been more proud of many of their performances, but especially of hers. Despite the final outcome, there were moments when they played well, and cooperatively, and volleys occurred back and forth over the net, and all got a taste of what volleyball could be. I didn't focus on the failure to win, but wanted for the opportunity to succeed, and if not in this game then another.Likewise, there was vision experienced (by the team as a whole), I feel, of what could be for them as a team. Maybe in that is yet a little more depth to the fatherly-heart of God in this: it looks, with vision, to what will be, because He is capable of bringing it about, and His word "does not go forth and return void, but accomplishes the purposes for which it was sent" -- for the individual "player", and for the "team".

   

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Impromptu Slumber Party

     Last Saturday was yet another volleyball game for my daughter; I was the line judge and designated snack-bringer. Neither here nor there for the post, but does sort of set the stage for the narrative context of the day. Unbeknownst to her I had received the last minute invitation to a surprise birthday slumber party. Even more exciting was the fact that the dear little friend my daughter had been missing -- that friend having moved schools a few years earlier -- would be attending the party. Providentially, serendipitously, I might add, since my daughter had only two days before mentioned again that she was missing that little friend.

     My son did not want to go lizard hunting despite all my encouragements and committedness to the project, as I had intended to take him to do after the game. We had had a busy day the day before, with the school carnival, and a morning spent in seemed more appealing I suppose. Mom had awoken early that day, so, as the time for the party approached, I set out to purchase some last minute surprise birthday gifts with just my daughter in tow.

     Given the party was for her friends it would seem to just make sense that I would take her with me, but the primary reason I actually did take her with me was because she had asked. I had already been on my way out the door when she asked. Buying the gifts was a chore I wanted to do, to get it done, and done expediently -- and expediency and shopping with a child are not always synonymous tasks. What must be understood here, and that which is the point at which I am driving, is that I did not acquiesce, nor change my mind. And this point should be understood in all its nuance.

     I saw that it was both something my daughter wanted to be a part of, and saw that it was a good thing to fold her into the action. Among my many fatherly desires are the desires for her growth, inclusion, empowerment, and thus folding her into the shopping spoke to those desires. Indeed, to that end I can say it was very much similar to what I wanted for my son through attending the carnival. Furthermore, her desires to be included I could see were in-line (or at least aligned) with mine in shopping for her friends -- i.e. she was wanting to honor them as I did. I further understand she wants to spend time with me, and I with her, and this was a good opportunity. Like I said, there is nuance here, as well as multiple dynamics at play, all of which tend (concurrent with her being folded into the plans) to a more whole good.

     Clearly I see the father-heart of God in this readiness to / of "folding (us) into" -- this multi-faceted and nuanced and many layered willingness to include us in His plans. His is a heart most certainly honoring of our hearts alignment with His desires. Risking making theological conjecture here but I would say this is even how we find ourselves coming into His calling on our lives and in our lives.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Spring Carnival

     The elementary school's Spring Carnival, which happens to be the big event of the year for the school (from a budgetary, an organizational, and a social standpoint), occurred last Friday. I had been finding myself, prior to the event, a bit "evented out," and was not considering this event beyond a minor wish to dodge the decision of going.

     My son, however, was evidencing a good deal of enthusiasm, at least as I have learned to read him as showing such. He talked frequently about it, and especially about the silent auction baskets, not quite grasping the concept. My daughter was little help in the matter, voicing her lack of interest, and inclining me against going. My wife, who inevitably would not be able to attend (due to her overnight work schedule), voiced her desire for the children to go, stressing it's importance as the first such event for my son as a student himself of the school.

     Begrudgingly at my wife being right, maybe, but also definitely and newly intentioned about the whole affair I resolved we would go. It even crossed my mind I should buy the tickets ahead of time online. This fact may disclose I was both setting out to really see this happen, and dragging my heels at the same time.
   
     In retrospect I can see the importance of the event to my son through his eyes. It was simply the fact that the carnival was something, some event which (by virtue of his being a student at the school) he ought to be able to attend; a fun and an anticipated socializing at which he had a place to be. Having a sense of place, a sense of legitimacy even, well, that is important. A feeling of righteousness involves having a sense of place and legitimacy within the dynamics of a given situation. Hence, it might even be argued that, by virtue of his being a student and us all going that I was providing the opportunity for a sense of righteousness.

     Having a sense of place within the social world, a sense of social identity, senses of inclusion and participation (and the autonomy coming from this), a sense of righteousness, a sense of freedom to go have fun, and just meeting the excitement of anticipated fun, all this came with just taking my son to the carnival. While at the carnival itself, well, all of our little socialites came out, and we were atwitter with excitement as we moved from booth to booth, game to game, conversation to conversation.

     If I had understood all this prior to the event then I would certainly have had the same attitude about it which I now have.  I knew prior it was good to go, and I went because I wanted the good thing for my son. I was willing to purchase tickets online because, once decided upon even merely tht it was a good thing, I was willing to go before and "pave the way" for experiencing the event. Now, in retrospect, seeing in what manner it was good, I would have done no less, and had the situation called for such, done more in terms of "paving the way". I am now looking towards opportunities for me to ensure further development of such senses in my children.

And in that desire for my son (both my children) I can easily see the father-heart of God for us. I can easily see His willingness to pave the way for us, and even His desire to pave the way to ensure we have the opportunity for such senses of ourselves and our places in the world. Christ said that in His father's house there were many rooms, and He (Christ) went there to prepare a place for us. God has gone before us, God is going before us. paving the way, desiring for our benefit.

   

Thursday, April 7, 2016

of Lizards, Hope, & Waiting.

     My son wants to go catch lizards these days, when he gets home from school. That is a bit problematic, for various reasons not the least of which is that I haven't a clue as to any good places to go find them. I would be content sitting upon a rock and observing them if they happened by. No doubt, if we do end up hunting and catching any, I will employ subterfuge (or reasoning, or bribes) to convince him to let them go after a day or two -- I would much rather they not die in our care, and to see copious evidence of them in our yard (to the level even of "nuisance," if it were even possible to have too many lizards in your yard).

     There are other reasons which make hunting lizards after school difficult, primarily that such times as those after school are strictly budgeted and prioritized. Going out somewhere other than our back yard to find lizards just isn't going to happen. Maybe more importantly, given our rather out-of-box lifestyle and unique situation, this segment of time is the closest we are going to get to a "chunk of family time," if we are to get any. Often, however, it is time also easily divided into necessary chore times.  Time spent together, as a family unit, that is important, while time spent upon chores is a practical necessity. Admittedly, we could always make more efforts to be intentional with this time, but either way, after school is not the best time for lizard hunting.

     Here's the thing though: I do want to go out with him to hunt for lizards. I relish the opportunity to partner with my son, and to "engage in the hunt" together, to be cooperative with him. More importantly, much much more importantly, we both enjoy lizards, and spending time together. And beyond any of that, I so want him to know that I want to spend time with him, doing what we love to do together, that it is a definite certainty we shall. This is so much the case that my intention to do this with him in our freer (albeit future) moments is a promise as good as realized, as good as having happened -- just as soon as it is the day for it. It is a priority of such degree it is an undoubted certainty. Interestingly enough, this is the biblical concept of "hope" -- a certainty of a future event without any present moment evidentiary basis for the knowledge and certainty. This is not some whishy-whashy, flim-flam, hippy-dippy drummed up positive attitude nor a desperation in wishing it happens, 

     "Certainly" in this desire for my son to have hope, to have certainty in my heart and my intention and my promise (to go lizard hunting with him) coming to fruition, I clearly see the father-heart of God for us. And it is a good and loving heart, which desires freedom from fear and uncertainty; it desires an embuing of strength derivative of the expectation having been met (despite not yet having experienced it's happening); it loves and considers and has understanding and compassion for the one waiting.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

First Spring Game

     So, my daughter had her first volleyball game on Saturday. I have to say from the onset there is precious little narrative (beyond that tidbit) to provide as context or background for this post. We had been looking forward to the game all week, and that expectation was seen in the little comments indicating it was on our minds. The little way those things for which we are excited about tend to be held onto, and randomly mentioned or talked about.

     I simply was wanting for my daughter to get the opportunity to perform in what she wanted to perform, and admittedly even to get the chance to excel (in this case, to excel at that sport). I wanted the opportunity for that performing and excelling on every level. I have looked with appreciation upon the growth in my daughter, watched her at practice in the volleyball clinic working to master the skills being taught -- really, really working.

     And her work shows: she is remarkably improved and displays some laudable skill for a girl her age and experience level. Personally I feel that she ranks as one of the more solid players on her team, and definitely ranks among the top five in terms of skill level -- and I don't think my personal bias flavors that assessment. In that same breath I admit, this is third and fourth grade volleyball, and if the ball goes back and forth over the net four times in a row after one serve I call that a dramatic game.

     What surprised me Saturday was how I had made this opportunity for her to perform and even to excel a goal of my own, and with a fierceness (within my own heart) I had not expected. Not that I was outwardly fierce about anything, but inwardly, well, "missional" sort of under-sells the sense of the thing. Come Hell or High Water I was getting us to the game which I had looked forward to all week. There had been investment made on the part of my daughter, and growth as a result of that investment. Getting to go to (and to play in) the game was the opportunity to "put into play," (pun intended) to actually get to test / put to the test, so to speak, what had been worked upon; it was having an opportunity to face challenge.

     In this desire to provide an opportunity to show off the effort (through discipline) made at training, and to have the benefit of challenge to see where growth has taken place, and even working towards getting us to where we are being allowed to display the growth which has occurred, well, in such I clearly see the father-heart of God. Our faith, "which is greater worth than gold," which is refined in and for trial and discipline, He desires for us to be able to "put into practice, put to use" what He knows of us. There is no aloof, detached and uninvolved omnipotent line-judge waiting to declare "foul" when we have gone out of bounds, seeking merely to spotlight our broken or wounded inner recesses and dark hearts. Rather, I see in this heart a proud father honoring effort. providing for its display on our behalf.